Benefits to be had in BYOD policies, Citrix says

Tablet and SmartphoneCitrix Systems says the time has come for organizations to establish a formal BYOD (bring your own device) policy for employees.

Citing what it calls the Citrix Bring-Your-Own Index (a global survey), the vendor said 92 per cent of IT organizations are aware that employees are using their own devices in the workplace and 94 per cent intend to have a BYOD policy in place by mid-2013.

The research suggests that attracting and retaining talent, increased worker productivity and mobility and greater employee satisfaction, as well as reducing IT costs, are the primary drivers of BYOD adoption.

“There are two reasons that BYOD is being embraced within organizations,” stated Mick Hollison, vice-president of desktop marketing and strategy at Citrix. “There are those that are using BYOD to keep up with the rapid consumerization of enterprise IT and then there are forward-thinking CIOs who have embraced BYOD as a way to attract the best talent, encourage a flexible working environment and raise productivity levels.”

Warren Shiau, director of research for the Consumer Insight & IT Practice at Leger Market Research in Toronto, said the benefits of BYOD can include reduced IT costs but whether or not this actually happens relies on how a BYOD policy is implemented.

“If we’re talking about employees only ever needing access to email, and standard productivity applications when they’re mobile then it can be incredibly easy to offload equipment purchase costs to employees and retain all the IT control you want,” he said. “If we’re talking access to sensitive enterprise data or mission critical enterprise applications then it’s a very different story.

“Most of the data or studies on BYOD will tell you that the first case is generally what’s happening; so yeah this is low lying fruit with the great payoffs of getting employees to buy devices so that they can work or be in touch in situations where they wouldn’t have before, be happy about it, and be working under a ‘controlled situation’ as far as IT is concerned.”

Citrix said virtualization is a key enabler of BYOD. That’s to be expected, but it’s worthwhile to note 62 per cent of surveyed organizations indicated that they have already invested or plan to invest in desktop virtualization. Furthermore, 80 per cent of those organizations intend to leverage their desktop virtualization investment to support employee-owned devices and BYOD.

In enterprise situations with respect to BYOD, virtualization is the “go-to” technology, Shiau agreed.

“The key aspect here is control and virtualization is the best way to maintain control of the environment the mobile user uses for work on a personal device,” he said. “This becomes critical when we’re dealing with sensitive enterprise data or applications.”

Mark Farrow, CIO of Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS), acknowledged his healthcare facility was ahead of the curve with respect to the ‘tablet revolution’ but he credits the institution’s mobile readiness to Citrix.

“Four years ago I heard Citrix CEO Mark Templeton talk about the concept of bring your own computer to work and he envisioned this as being the next wave,” Farrow recalled. “We worked with Citrix using their XenApp and XenDesktop technologies and we worked with Cisco on a lot of their network technology to provide threat protections . . . when the tablet revolution hit one of my doctors raced out to buy an iPad and within 24 hours (of his iPad purchase) we had him connected on our network using all of our systems.”

HHS currently has 150 doctors accessing its network with various smart devices.

“Essentially they’re all taking advantage of Citrix Receiver to access our corporate resources that they need. I’m comfortable because it gives me total security; no footprint on the devices,” he added. “They can’t bring a virus into the organization but they still have full access to what they need to do their jobs.”

With respect to the consumerization of IT, Farrow said organizations should embrace it but they must be ready to do so.

“Certainly in healthcare it’s all about privacy but in other industries with corporate secrets, you don’t want your data leaking out,” he said. “So build your policies and put in the right technology and if you do, I think you’ll see the consumerization and socialization of networks is leading to increased productivity and that’s something we should be harnessing. A bring your own policy is one of the things that’ll harness that power for us.”

Returning to the survey, it also revealed the most popular devices brought into the workplace currently are laptops and smartphones. However, most companies anticipate that within two years, the use of tablets as the primary personal computing device will rise significantly to almost 23 per cent from just eight per cent today.

“We can see tablets becoming consumers’ primary computing device but we can’t see it becoming the primary business computing device,” Shiau remarked. “Tablets may be a lot sexier than netbooks but they still have tons of critical weak points as a primary work computer when compared to a good laptop.

“The primary mobile device for business users will still be, we think, the smartphone for a longtime. Change that to primary mobile computing device however, and I think within two to three years the data is going to be showing tablets replacing laptops with laptops becoming the primary ‘at the office’ computer versus desktops.”

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